Revealed: How airline activity shows shoots of recovery

ACL’s airport analyst, Chris Butler, revisits the numbers, revealing what the latest flight volume numbers say and what this means for the remaining summer season.

Over the past weeks we have seen initial signs of optimism for flying in Summer 2020. Changing government policies, as well as signs of increasing consumer demand, have enabled greater flexibility and allowed the aviation industry to focus on a ‘ramp-up’ in flying for the remainder of the S20 season. The first week of July saw over 1,000 slots held per day across UK Level 3 airports, representing over 20% of the volume seen in Summer 2019 and increasing to over 30% by the end of July.

This tentative return of flying follows a trend of widespread cancellations as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak with 600,000 slots cancelled at UK Level 3 airports since March, representing 65% of the total allocated slots for S20.

The volume of cancellations, however, is decreasing. June saw 12% fewer cancellations than seen in May, as airlines begin to align their schedules to the expected summer demand. We can also analyse the number of ‘slot changes’ made by airlines (route, time and equipment changes to existing slots held in the schedule) to understand how this preparation for a ramp-up in flying has increased. June saw an increase in slot changes of over 250% compared to May, suggesting that airlines have significantly increased their activity in preparation for restarting some limited flying in S20.

June has also seen a 187% increase versus May in the number of ad-hoc slots added to the S20 schedule at UK Level 3 airports, translating to over 22,000 new slots. Schedule data can be used to identify where airlines are seeking to ramp up operations; 42% of slot changes made last week were for slots held in August, which may indicate that airlines are planning for a substantial increase in flying volume next month relative to current levels.

Analysis of ACL schedule data suggests that demand will not return uniformly; peaks in flying volumes may present further challenges to the industry as flights restart. Volumes in July are significantly higher on Day 5 (Friday), as airlines plan to meet demand for leisure flying.

Whilst the overall average number of flights per day in July equates to just 25% of last summer’s volume, the current schedule indicates that July will see an average of over 1,800 flights per day on Day 5, representing 34% of the volume seen in S19.


Our data indicates that the S20 schedule will remain extremely dynamic as airlines prepare to increase flying across the coming months. By analysing the volume of changes made to existing schedules we can forecast changes in flying at specific airports, times, and dates. ACL are committed to monitoring and reporting on these trends to support the aviation industry in successfully re-introducing flying for the remainder of the summer.

For more information on our schedule data or for any queries regarding ACL’s work, please get in touch -info@acl-uk


By Chris Butler

Copyright © ACL Airport Coordination Limited Ltd. All rights reserved.
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